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Khan Vows To Continue Deadly Antigovernment Protests

  • RFE/RL

Imran Khan addresses supporters outside the parliament building in Islamabad on August 28.

Imran Khan addresses supporters outside the parliament building in Islamabad on August 28.

Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan says he will protest to "the last breath" as clashes between police and protesters left at least three people dead and hundreds injured.

Khan, populist cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, and thousands of their supporters have been camped outside of parliament and other government buildings in Islamabad since August 15 demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Khan told supporters on August 31 that "this is not a constitutional government -- they are killers."

His comments came after police fired tear gas on August 31 as protesters tried to regroup after a night of violence near Sharif's residence in Islamabad.

Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said earlier on August 31 that the government is open to restarting negotiations with protest leaders.

He said "they wanted their demands to be met at gunpoint but still, our doors are open for talks."

Medical officials says more than 400 people were wounded in the clashes.

RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal says dozen of police were among the wounded.

Islamabad police chief Khalid Khattak said the protesters were armed with big hammers, wire cutters and axes, and even had a crane to remove street blockades.

Defense Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif said police later managed to clear most of the protesters from the parliament building's parking area and lawns.

Protests demanding Sharif's resignation were also taking place in Lahore, Karachi, and other Pakistani cities, according to TV reports.

In Islamabad, thousands of protesters on August 30 had marched from parliament to Sharif's home.

The demonstrators claim Sharif won elections in 2013 due to massive voter fraud.

On August 30, Sharif, who has the backing of parliament and many political parties, once again said he will not resign.

The antigovernment demonstrations began with a march in the eastern city of Lahore on August 14, Pakistan's Independence Day.

Khan and Qadri have called for millions of protesters to join but crowds have remained in the thousands and mostly peaceful untll August 30.

Khan, a cricket-legend-turned politician, described the police action against the crowd in Islamabad as illegal.

"Now we will show this government, we will call for countrywide agitation and we will jam the whole of Pakistan," Khan said.

Sharif's spokesman Asif Kirmani said the government had to use force after protesters tried to attack the center of state power in the capital.

It was not clear whether Sharif was at the residence on August 30.

"A state can't be left at the mercy of some thousand people," Kirmani said in an interview with Geo News TV.

Based on reporting by Radio Mashaal, AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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